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TEMPLE LODGE HISTORY

 

THE FIRST 100 YEARS

     So well had the two "blue" lodges prospered in St, Catharines (St. George’s and Maple Leaf) that the W.M. and officers of St. George’s Lodge agreed to recommend the formation of a third lodge to be called "The Temple Lodge". As a result of this action, the first Minute Book of the new lodge has the following opening record: "The Regular meeting of Temple, U.D. held in the Masonic Hall, St Catharines on Wednesday, the 2nd day of April A.L. 5873 pursuant to summonses of W. Bro. L.S. Oille, W.M., U.D.

     The Worshipful Master at the appointed time read the Dispensation from the M.W.G.M. authorizing him to hold meeting; and having complied with all requirements the Lodge was opened at 8 O’clock P.M.

 

     The Worshipful Master was pleased to appoint the following Officers to serve in Temple Lodge;

W. Bro. Lauchlin Leitch Treasurer
Bro. James M. Edwin Secretary
Bro. Theodore Thompson Senior Deacon
Bro. Robert S. Ness Junior Deacon
Bro. Frederick A. Baker Inner Guard
Bro. William W. Greenwood Senior Steward
Bro. John W. Cox Junior Steward
Bro. John Reid Director of Ceremonies
Bro. James D. Tait Asst. Member Comm. of Gen. P.
Bro. John M. Currie Asst. Member Comm. of Gen. P.

 

     It was moved by W. Bro. Robert Matheson and seconded by W. Bro. Lauchlin Leitch and resolved: That Temple Lodge adopt the By-Laws of St. George’s Lodge No. 15 until such time as a code of By-Laws has been drafted and adopted for the government of Temple Lodge in their stead, with the following alterations and additions;

     1st. - That the fee for initiation in Temple Lodge be fixed at $25.00.

     2nd. - That the regular meeting of Temple Lodge be held on the first Wednesday of every month.

     3rd - That the fee for affiliating members be fixed at $4.00

     4th - That the Worshipful Master shall be the Trustee of Temple Lodge in the Masonic Association of St. Catharines.

     5th - Any privileges with reference to dues enjoyed by joining members from other lodges shall be continued to them in Temple Lodge.


Three resolutions were passed at this first meeting;

      1. The Bro. Richard Ratcliffe be appointed Tyler of Temple Lodge and that his remuneration be at the rate of $1.00 for each night service.

      2. That the Secretary be authorized to procure the necessary Book for Temple Lodge.

      3. That the Committee of G.P. be directed to prepare a Code of By-Laws for Temple Lodge and to submit the same to the Lodge for consideration at their earliest convenience.

 

     Petitions were received from 3 brethren for affiliation and from 7 citizens for initiation. These 10 petitions were referred to the C. of G.P. to be reported on at the next regular meeting. The Lodge was closed in Harmony at nine o'clock P.M."

     From the beginning Temple Lodge found it necessary to watch finances very carefully. However there seems to have always been enough astute business men in the membership to keep a credit balance. So in 1880's when times were slow, we find them objecting to the rental charge by the board of Masonic Control. When a satisfactory agreement could not be reached, they left the Temple: and one regular meeting was held in United Workman's Hall. A reconciliation was reached. The rent was adjusted, and the brethren of Temple Lodge returned to their old quarters. In those days finances were indeed low, and when the W.M. sanctioned the funeral expenses of a deceased brother, the Lodge, while agreeing with the Master, asked that the brethren loan the amount to the W.M. till such time as the finances were adequate to repay them. Perhaps such experiences explain the fact Temple Lodge had a larger investment in the old building on Ontario Street than any other one of the participating Masonic Bodies. It may have been the reason also why Temple in 1947 objected so strenuously to the proposal to sell the old building at the low sale price of $15,000; and held out until 1953 when the offer was tripled to $45,000, and which they still thought too low.

      By 1931 the number of lodges named "Temple" on the Ontario Register of Grand Lodge had increased so that Temple Lodge No. 324 of Hamilton sponsored a "Temple Night" at which Officers of each Temple Lodge in Ontario were invited to take part in conferring the degrees that evening. This became a very popular fraternal re-union; and the lodges each took turn in being the host lodge for the annual event. As time went on new items were added to the program - visiting brethren brought along their ladies who were shown the local points of greatest interest, and then were the guests at a full-course dinner in the evening. When W. Bro. H.C. Rymer was Master of Temple Lodge No. 296 in 1963, when St. Catharines was last the host lodge, there were 7 guest lodges - Hamilton No.324, - Toronto No. 525, - London No. 597, - Oshawa No. 649, - Ottawa No. 665, - Belleville No. 666, - and Kitchener No. 690.

     Early in its existence Temple Lodge joined with its two sister lodges, St. George's and Maple Leaf to form a joint Board of Masonic Relief. This no doubt resulted finally in the purchase of a fine circular burial area, restricted to Masonic brethren, in Victoria Lawn Cemetery. It is located directly behind the Mausoleum in the original part of the cemetery. A few burials have been made there, but it would seem to be fitting to spend some funds in beautifying the whole area, Lot 1, Div. 1, Sect. K.

     Being so close to the U.S. Border, it was possible to exchange fraternal visits with N.Y. Masonic Lodge. One Masonic group from Buffalo, "The Four Square Club", who had visited Temple Lodge frequently, invited the brethren to spend a Saturday afternoon at a Brother's estate at East Aurora. So popular did this outing prove that in future years 2 or 3 buses were required to transport the brethren. Needless to say they were always royally wined and dined!

     Perhaps the outstanding annual event for Temple Lodge members is the June migration to Smithville to install the new Master-Elect and to invest his Officers. The origin of this custom dates back many years to the most active years, Masonically speaking, of our late brother R.W. Bro. Jos. Backus, who had very close brotherly relations with the members of Coronation Lodge. The annual installation ceremonies fell in the latter part of June, when the weather was extremely HOT and the rural members of Smithville Lodge were very busy on the farm. Being himself a farmer W. Bro. Backus, realizing the circumstances, agreed to conduct the ceremony. This brotherly gesture was so appreciated by the busy Smithville farmers that they not only feasted their visitors on strawberries and ice-cream but practically gave them the Key to the town. Thus this annual tradition has continued through the years!

     After some 75 years of successful operation the membership of the Lodge had risen above the 400 mark: and some of the older brethren began to find the long climb up the several flights of stairs a bit too strenuous, it was apparently time for a more modern temple. So Temple Lodge was ready to join with her 4 sister lodges, the Chapter, and Perceptory in forming the Masonic Memorial Temple Association of St. Catharines. The Charter of Incorporation was received June 6th, 1947. The main purpose was stated to be "To provide a permanent and suitable building for the holding of Masonic meetings and other activities normally carried on in a Masonic temple which shall stand as a permanent memorial to all those Masons who gave their lives in the First World War 1914-1918, and the Second World War 1939-1945, in order that others may be free, and Masonic and other fraternal organizations may for all time function freely,"

     Immediately a campaign for funds was started. When sufficient funds were available, a Building Committee was set up. Several sites were considered - one of which was the Protestant Orphans' Home on Ontario Street. An offer of $15,000 was made, but it was not accepted. Finally the old Court Street School was selected and purchased for $40,500 from the Board of Education. To give sufficient room an adjoining lot on Centre Street was bought for $8,500. The old building on Ontario Street was sold to R.M. Robertson for $45,000. A second fund-raising drive was carried on in 1953 successfully. Thomas Wiley was commissioned to prepare the plans and Moir Construction Co, secured at $102,564.

     The ground floor of the new structure was designed for, and leased to, St. Catharines-Lincoln Health Unit. The second floor was the new commodious lodge room. The old school was remodeled to provide a banquet room, a small lodge room, and social rooms and kitchens. The most expensive item in furnishing the new temple was the beautiful golden carpet in Masonic design. As funds were becoming low, there was some hesitation re: making this additional expenditure, but the brethren felt this crowning touch must be added - and many who had already made three payments to the Building Fund agreed to make another so it could be. Their wisdom has been proven by the luster it has given our lodge room.

     Through the years Temple Lodge attracted many of the leading fruit-growers from the agricultural area surrounding St. Catharines. Many of them became expert ritualists, as the nature of their occupation gave a good opportunity to concentrate an "The Work". One brother  remarked that his team had been initiated, passed, and raised several times. He added, however, that he was 'suspect' in his neighbourhood as he had been noticed "talking to himself" a couple of times! This dedication to "The Work" led to a special occasion each year known as "Agricultural Night", when the chairs were occupied by expert agriculturalists. As there was overlapping in jurisdiction with Ivy Lodge, Seymour Lodge, and Grantham Lodge much interest was created in them, and their members often assisted in conferring the degrees. This helped develop a truly fraternal brotherhood in the area.

     In the early decades of this century Temple Lodge was blessed with a loyal group of expert Past Masters. To show his appreciation of their assistance to him, one Ruling Master proposed near the end of the year, to hold a "Past Masters' Night", when the chairs would be occupied by them, and his Officers and the Members would watch a degree conferred as it should be! So successful was the plan that it became an annual event. Finally to set it apart from the ordinary meetings it was preceded by a dinner at 6:30 P.M., with the lodge being opened at 7:30 for degree work. This occasion is anticipated with keen interest and gives the Ruling Master, his Officers, and the 'side-benchers' an opportunity to express appreciation of the loyalty of the Past Masters. Perhaps the most colourful event of Temple Lodge's Masonic year is the annual 'At Home". Originally it was named "Ladies Night" and was an expression of appreciation to the wives of the Officers and Members for their patience and forbearance in making it possible for their men to devote a couple of nights each month to the work of the Lodge. It has grown to be quite a social affair commencing with an elaborate dinner - complete with guest speaker and traditional toasts - followed by an evening of dancing to the accompaniment of a popular dance orchestra. It was felt that the most appropriate time for such an occasion was on or near St. Valentine's Day - so the middle of February is anticipated by all who enjoy dancing.

 

THE NEXT 25 YEARS

     In terms of historical events the last 25 years of Temple Lodge have been rather uneventful. Though uneventful, the years have been rich to those who have participated and taken interest in the Lodge activities. Many of the faces have changed and a few have not, but the officers have always been a close knit group, supported by many past masters and a few die hard 'side benchers' who made sure the Lodge was always successful.

     In 1973 as part of the 100th Anniversary Celebrations a new set of regalia was dedicated by R.W. Bro. Charles Sanky, member of the board of general purposes, and the old regalia was donated to National Lodge No. 588 in Caperol, Ontario. In 1978 new altar and pedestal covers were purchased and dedicated from the centennial fund. In 1979 the bible was purchased and dedicated by R.W. Bro. Alex Crawford.

     The Lodge has had 2 D.D.G.M'S invested in the past 25 years, R.W. Bro. James Pollard in 1978 and R.W. Bro. Tim Pedwell in 1993. R.W. Bro. Pollard has served Temple Lodge extensively since 1978 spending many years as secretary. We are sure that R.W. Bro. Tim Pedwell will continue his dedication to the best interests of the lodge. There were also a number of our members who have had Grand Lodge honours as Grand Stewards. V.W. Bro. G. Harrison, 1973, V.W. Bro. J. Fleck, 1979, V.W. Bro. C. Jago, 1986, V.W. Bro. M. Friesen, 1994.

     Through the years many 25, 50, and 60 year pins have been given to our senior Lodge members, but on Nov. 19, 1980 a 60 year pin was presented to Bro. Charles Ernest Ireland who traveled from Los Angeles to receive it.

     There have been a number of projects to raise money for various causes among the brethren. Some of the causes included project help (hearing for every living person) project home (lodge building at Black Creek pioneer village) and help nip drugs in the bud.
     In October of 1995, Temple Lodge stepped into the information age by purchasing a computer. The computer allows the secretary to print out the summonses and communicate with Grand Lodge and others by letter and fax. The by-laws and many other documents, as well as this booklet, are printed in-home.

     The Lodge still holds many regular functions such as yearly visitations back and forth with Ivy Lodge No.115, our yearly Temple Lodge reunion's, Past Master's night, Christmas functions; special nights to honour certain brethren, R.W. Bro. Jim Pollard and the presentation of the William Mercer Wilson medal to Bro. Barney Tucker to name some; the annual summer picnic first held in 1986 by W. Bro. Don Wiley, many education nights, talks on various subjects of  Masonic interest, and a weekend Lodge meeting.
     Though the past Twenty-Five years have, from a Historic point of view been uneventful they have not been empty years, but full and productive. The Lodge has withstood many changes that have made some lodges close their doors. The Lodge is strong financially, and steady in membership. Though the Lodge has lost some good officers through unforeseen circumstances those that remain are good and  strong officers. With the support of the Past Masters these officers and the new members they bring into the Lodge, will keep the Lodge going strong, well into the millennium God Be Willing.

 

THE 21st CENTURY

THE FIRST DECADE

V.W. Bro. Donald R. Sturgeon, Historian
 

In April, 2009 Temple Lodge No. 296 marked its 136th year of service to its members. So, it is not a new Kid on the Block. The Lodge met first Under Dispensation in April, of 1873. This section of its history dwells on the last 10-year segment, wherein Temple Lodge is clearly experiencing some negative impact from the changing and industrialized society we live in. This evolution, as the 20th Century advanced, has accelerated its effects on both the community and the Craft over the years.

The ideal of a local lodge is that of a family of families wherein each Mason shows an understanding and friendly disposition towards his brethren, keeping in touch with many, and showing his concern for their welfare.

We know that Masonry is important in some differing sort of intensity to all men who enter the Craft. One might believe, that when any Entered Apprentice Mason’s expectations about the craft before he joins are in harmony with what he regularly gains from the Craft through his association and attendance at lodge meetings, he will become a dedicated Mason working in and enjoying his own lodge for many years.

We note that The Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario recognizes Masonry in more than 130 states and countries throughout the world. It is not only our young men therefore, who think more globally than used to be the case. But, the modern leaders of this Fraternity have most likely studied over and over the ideals of ‘universal brotherhood’ and promote its acceptance within the Craft.

One Temple Lodge member whose example we treasure was recognized in Grand Lodge with its highest honour for a Mason who served in his lodge for almost 50 years without seeking the preferment of an office. His meritorious service extended far beyond that usually expected of an officer or a member. In 1990 Brother Bernard (Barney) E. Tucker WMM was awarded the William Mercer Wilson Medal for his dedicated service in the Craft.

The Lodge has been privileged in having three (3) of its members recognized as Grand Lodge Officers:

          2000 --- V.W. Bro. Keith G. Pedwell --- Grand Steward

          2006 --- R.W.Bro. J. David Prudhomme --- District Deputy Grand Master

          2007 --- V.W.Bro. Robert J. Dell --- Grand Steward

 The master with the assistance of his officers will ideally, mix with the members and look in particular for the brethren who mix less freely. In an urban setting, members have less awareness of the business and private lives of their brethren than is possible in more rural lodges or in less densely populated districts. A Rotary Club practice of each new member being provided at a regular meeting with an opportunity to explain his achievements to date to the club, with what Rotarians call a “classification talk” or its equivalent, might be a step toward greater sociability among the brethren. His empathy with others will grow as each member present gains a greater appreciation of a new brother’s life goals and objectives.

If in the last few years sociability within the Craft has changed somewhat from former days, there may be an explanation. Urbanization of a locale such as Niagara Region, necessarily follows new local industrialization. The 20th Century handily captured the record for scientific innovation and inventions in the industrially developed part of the world, including the part we live in. As a result, a global competitiveness and creative uses of those inventions and innovations by industries, have forced more changes in the workplace, in communication, and carried many varied influences into the home-life of our members and potential members.

New technology at work lead to more formal education being required of workers. Entry into many occupations and professions became delayed for young people, extending their period of dependence. From the middle of the century on new opportunities for employment of women became available. The higher cost of a modern lifestyle forced many more women to be employed outside the home. Men and women working for separate multinational companies frequently have to travel distances to work and they may get transferred often, interrupting family life and other community commitments. The St. Catharines Standard reports that Canadian Auto Workers have lost 5,000 jobs in Niagara since 2004.

Such changes at home and at work are reflected in the attendance at lodge, and in the leadership concerns in Masonry. If one looks at the average attendance of members per meeting night in Temple Lodge for the years between 1981 to 2000 the numbers decline by about 20%. The average attendance of visitors per meeting night also declines.

The attendance of members at meetings in this decade is down by a further 6 from that of the previous two decades. This decline in participation, that may be similar for other jurisdictions, is for Temple Lodge No. 296, profound. But, if attendance at monthly meetings is down it is not a total surprise. Temple Lodge membership on December 31, 1996 was 150; in 2001 was 130; in 2006 it was down to 98. In 2009 membership stands at 89. So the Lodge lost 30% of its membership in the last 10 years.

Starting off this first decade of the 21st Century in 1999 Temple Lodge installed Worshipful Master David Prudhomme who’s energy and experience inspired his officers and members in a busy Masonic year. Traditional activities such as: providing for the official visit of D.D.G.M. R. W. Bro. Edward J. Woodland; for the annual Temple Lodge Reunion held in Ottawa; the annual fraternal visit to Ivy Lodge; the annual summer family picnic; the annual step-up night; the annual Ladies Night; and in other fraternal obligations owed to the District.

Over this time several members of the Lodge have remained active in Concordant Masonic Bodies as well as within the Offices of the Masonic Memorial Temple Association which operates the M.M.T.A. Building in St. Catharines. The Lodge continues to hold its Annual Ladies Night which coincides with Valentine’s Day and is generally well supported by Lodge Members and the District in general.

These and other traditional events, along with such necessary in-house traditions as acknowledging and providing for the ceremony relating to each new member; the organizing of long-service recognition events, and memorials, have all been faithfully repeated with variations each year. Unfortunately, the holding of the Province-wide Temple Lodge Reunion, due to costs and declining memberships is no longer an annual event.

Members with leadership potential, who are qualified and who are also interested in serving as Craft officers have apparently lost some zeal for the role. Of the 17 consecutive years (1981 to 1997) there were 17 new Worshipful Masters elected, one each year. In the next 12 years, (1998 to 1909), only 3 of the 12 names are new. The support of those Worshipful Masters who filled-in during the 12 lean years past, is greatly appreciated by the members and respected by their colleagues and the junior officers, though in 2009 four chairs on the Lodge roster remain open.

The dearth of member Master Masons prepared to assume the Worshipful Master’s chair has been with us for all of this decade. The busy Worshipful Master of Temple Lodge is, in 2009, selflessly serving his fifth, and 4th consecutive year, in King Solomon’s Chair, with assistance from past masters whom he can call on when his personal work-schedule so requires.

Past Masters invariably express the experience of the office in supportive terms. “I would like to briefly thank the Lodge for the trust you placed in me. The teachings of Freemasonry are well founded and have remained the universal standard of good human relationships through good times and bad. As the circle of history continues to be repeated, the morals and behavior of the masses are affected by the fashion of the day, but Freemasonry continues intact.”

One Master wrote of his year, “It was an exhilarating experience which I will carry with me always. . . . It hasn’t seemed like work. . . . It has taught me the meaning of Masonry and I can assure you that Temple Lodge is alive and well. Brethren, Masonry consists of many bricks held together by strong mortar. The Masonic Lodges of Ontario are those bricks, but it is men like you who are the mortar.” This enthusiasm comes after two years in the Chair of King Solomon.

Another Master, at the close of his year in the East states, “The Candidates have been excellent, the Degree Work well done and the meetings concluded in a timely manner allowing members to enjoy the social time that follows.” This experienced Master obviously planned and performed the duties of Worshipful Master with those goals in his mind. He goes on to say of one of his other goals, “My only disappointment is that the attendance at our meetings is not on the increase.”

We are reminded here that the work of Master and therefore the experience of being Master are not suited to everyone. One master on leaving the East noted, “. . . I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Brethren for allowing me the privilege of sitting in the chair of King Solomon for the year. It has been an experience that I will not soon forget but my doctor assures me that the nightmares will end soon.”

The larger number of visitors occurs in January, being Installation Night, and April, a usual time for the official visit of the District Deputy Grand Master. Visitation numbers seems to vary from a few to many in those months depending on how well-known the new Worshipful Master has become through his past district and/or community contribution.

The MMTA arranged recently for the installation of a simple microphone system in the Lodge room. There are people from each lodge using and visiting the building who recognize why it was required, and also why it lasted only a short time before the facility was being ignored by speakers, and finally being abandoned. The acoustics problems it was intended to solve are still affecting lodge-room users, and may be of such import that it also affects attendance in a greater measure than originally believed. These, and other conditions, like its stairway access, may also affect the retention of some members of the Craft.

Those men who are accepted and conferred with basic degrees are thought of as an investment in the future of Masonry. During the years since 1992 it appears that at least 40 new candidates were inducted into Temple Lodge. Their retention as sustaining members was influenced by many of the factors noted above. As of this date retention would appear to be 1/3 or less of those young men conferred in those years.

There are those who believe that today’s new Mason is smarter, more informed, better educated, more used to using instantaneous communication devices, and more used to the hectic pace of the business world than in former decades. But, he is said also to be conditioned to demonstrate less patience with the time he spends on speculative activities. His impatience makes him want to move on if it seems that his time is being wasted. He will challenge what he is told - will question (maybe not on the spot) why things are done as they are – and without satisfactory answers, he says quietly to himself, “I’m out’a here!” If this is true for some young men, we need to be sensitive to that possibility.

Improved communications has given young people overwhelming advantages; the Internet, the cell phone, a desktop computer, a laptop and a Blackberry to name a few, to keep himself organized and connected. Niagara Masons have an influential avenue by which to communicate the principles of Masonry to these young men: the Niagara A web page www.niagaramasons.com maintained by R.W. Bro. Bruce McLennan.

We may be familiar with the Masonic Library at Brock University. It was begun by our own members contributing books that were thought valuable enough to form a significant collection. Brock is also one of the locations where young men are collecting for guidance and instruction, and by the way, paying handsomely for the opportunity. With the decline of traditional employment in St. Catharines and District “the new age” youth need and demand formal education in one of the two colleges, instead of seeking out the Union Hall, apprentice shop or other work-related meeting place as in the past.

Sources in other jurisdictions, of course, are heard to complain that “our numbers have diminished, we are struggling financially, our members are aging. The image of the craft, some critics say now, lacks credibility. “Temple No. 296 on the other hand, currently has a promising group of junior officers progressively moving up the ladder.

The Operating budget for Temple Lodge is as stated in 1998, “strong financially”. Periodic financial statements show that Temple No. 296 has a sound base with revenue not yet showing the effects of fewer members. Temple’s equity in the M.M.T.A. and other investments further demonstrates that the Lodge still has options open for the future. However one cannot ignore the careful analysis of recent current events against the background of its past and the reality of a changing municipal environment for the lodge in the new twenty-first century.

 
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